Southern city offers old-school charm with modern-day chic
Madison — a quaint city in southeastern Indiana on the north bank of the Ohio River and about 90 minutes from the state capital — is the perfect spot for travelers looking for old-school charm with modern sensibilities. The bustling river town is a short drive from both Louisville, Kentucky, to the south, and Cincinnati, Ohio, to the east. Home to one of the first Underground Railroad historic districts, several public parks, monuments and many other cultural points of interest, downtown Madison features more than 130 blocks of well-preserved, classically built structures.
Read on to see more of what this spectacular Hoosier gem has to offer:
Historic Eleutherian College
Founded in 1848 by anti-slavery Baptists, Eleutherian College offered educational opportunities to students regardless of race or gender. The college is located in Lancaster Village, and its name is derived from the Greek word “eleutheros,” meaning freedom or liberty. Today, the college is open for tours and attracts visitors from all over the country.
6927 IN-250, Madison, IN 47250
James Franklin Doughty Lanier, an attorney who served as clerk of the Indiana General Assembly before moving on to the world of finance, was one of Madison’s pioneers and a big part of the state’s development. Lanier hired Madison architect Francis Costigan to build his home, now a famed mansion and landmark. The home features Greek revival elements, Corinthian columns and many other classical components. The Lanier Mansion is a part of the Indiana State Museum historic sites and is open year-round. Guided tours occur at regular intervals between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. The gardens and grounds are open from dawn to dusk.
601 W. First St., Madison, IN 47250
Ben Schroeder Saddletree Company
In the Madison, Indiana, National Register Historic District stands the last of a foregone breed. For nearly a century, the Ben Schroeder Saddletree Company crafted thousands of wooden frames for saddle makers throughout the United States and Latin America, making it the nation’s longest lasting company of its kind. The company’s founder and namesake, John Benedict “Ben” Schroeder, a German immigrant, started the company in a small brick workshop in 1878. After Schroeder’s passing, his relatives began producing things like stirrups, work gloves and other products. In 1972, the factory closed and was left totally intact. Today, visitors and history lovers descend upon the space for a glimpse back in time.
The Schroeder Saddletree Factory Museum is open to the public mid-April through October.
106 Milton St., Madison, IN 47250
Food and drinks
The Lanthier Winery is said to have “a far away feeling, close enough to taste.” Visitors to the winery’s tasting room are invited to partake in samples of cellar master and owner Chris Lanthier’s handcrafted, award-winning wines, such as Rivertown Red, a gold medal winning Baco Noir that pairs well with savory, spicy dishes; Cranberry Grande, a great choice for poultry or holiday meals; and Mill Street White, a sweet Niagara. The winery regularly hosts events. Each February, on Valentine’s Day or the Saturday before, lovers of romance can enjoy the annual Schocolade Celebration, also known as the “ultimate chocolate indulgence.”
Address: 123 Mill St., Madison, IN 47250
Phone: (812) 273-2409
Crystal & Jules
Chef and owner Andy Richmer’s eatery, Crystal and Jules — an amalgamation of his wife’s and his late mother’s names — boasts upscale dining with seafood (braised red snapper, crab-stuffed flounder), fresh handmade pastas (beef ragout, alfredo) and the city’s best steak and dessert.
709 W. Main St., Madison, IN 47250
Key West Shrimp House
Looking for south Florida flavors without hopping a flight? Check out the Key West Shrimp House. Though the family-owned restaurant specializes in shrimp, they also offer other seafood options, steak and chicken. The chic dining spot overlooks the Ohio River and is housed in an 1800s-era button factory. Some of the menu options include grilled blackened mahi mahi, shrimp Orleans, chargrilled oysters and baked halibut oscar.
117 Ferry St., Madison, IN 47250
Riverboat Inn and Suites
Riverboat Inn and Suites is located right in the heart of Madison. Visitors can see the Delta Queen, American Queen and other tour boats move down the Ohio River. Each of the 50 rooms is individually and uniquely decorated. Guests also have the option to stay in one of the nine condos on the property or even rent a private home. There is also a riverfront event space for special meetings and gatherings.
906 E. First St., Madison, IN 47250
Clifty Inn offers comfortable accommodations and views of our state’s prehistoric beginnings.
Clifty Falls State Park, where the inn is located, features deeply cut gorges, sheet rock walls and plunging waterfalls. Both the Falls and the nearby Ohio River are products of the Ice Age. The inn is also located less than an hour away from Belterra Casino and Resort and the Kentucky Speedway.
1650 Clifty Hollow Road, Madison, IN 47250
Phone: (812) 265-4135
2 Sisters Bed & Breakfast
2 Sisters Bed & Breakfast, owned by sisters Mary and Madonna, is a gorgeous B&B housed in one of 400 Federal architectural-style buildings in the area’s historic district. Other elements include a kitchen featuring 12 hand-painted frescos by the famously elusive artist H.H. Meyer, a grand stairwell and spacious front parlor.
618 E. Second St., Madison, IN 47250
The Azalea Manor Bed and Breakfast is one of the oldest homes in Madison. The charming B&B showcases many touches indicative of the period (circa 1833): 10-foot double entrance doors, 12-foot ceilings, velvet-fringed drapes, old shutters and window cornices, antique furnishings and large Italian marble fireplaces. A large library boasts classic works of literature from the 1920s through the 1960s. Though the beds are new and the bathrooms are modern, much of the decor is antique. Guests are welcome to enjoy an abundant breakfast each morning and complimentary refreshments throughout the day.
510 W. Main St., Madison, IN 47250
Folks looking for a way to honor their love of vino will have a great time on the Indiana Wine Trail. The tour of six local wineries will allow guests an opportunity to chat with winemakers and get an up close look at how the libations are created. Madison’s wine heritage stretches back two centuries to when Swiss immigrants planted vineyards in the nearby city of Vevay. In fact, the Ohio River Valley is known as the largest designated wine region in the nation. The six wineries featured are: Madison Vineyards Estate Winery, Lanthier Winery, Thomas Family Winery, The Ridge Winery, Ertel Cellars Winery and Stream Cliff Farm Winery.
The Greiner Art Gallery at Hanover College brings an eclectic mix of visual art to visitors and residents of the community. The gallery regularly hosts special events such as lectures, demonstrations and seminars with nationally and internationally recognized artists. The gallery is located in the lobby of the Lynn Center for Fine Arts Building and is open to the public during exhibitions, during special events and by appointment.
517 Ball Dr., Hanover, IN 47243